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State of the position: Second base is DJ LeMahieu's spot to lose in 2015

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2014 Gold Glove winner DJ LeMahieu will be the undisputed starter after the departure of Josh Rutledge.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

In the lead up to the 2014 season, second base looked to be a position that would be closely contested by DJ LeMahieu and Josh Rutledge. The latter hit .269/.323/.405 in a touch over 100 games, but never did enough with the bat to justify his shortcomings with the glove. Hitting only four home runs in 342 plate appearances, while striking out at a rate of 24.3 percent and drawing walks only 5.8 percent of the time, culminated in a disastrous finish to the 2014 season. A first half slash line of .280/.347/.430 tumbled to .262/.311/.391 in a second half of the season that also saw his first half wRC+ of 104 fall to 79 over the second half. Thirteen errors in 105 games combined with decreasing production at the plate saw Rutledge shipped out to Anaheim for Jairo Diaz.

Incumbent Starter

DJ LeMahieu will be manning second base after a defensively superb season, albeit one that was lackluster offensively. He was absolutely sensational in the field, finishing the year with an UZR/150 of 11.0 while at second — good for first in the NL and third in the league, behind only Ian Kinsler and Dustin Pedroia — and credited with a 16 defensive runs saved, which was again third in the league behind Kinsler and Pedroia. You don't need fancy stats to appreciate just how good LeMahieu was in the field; his defensive prowess was on full display every time he took the field. Watch this. Watch it again. And again.

I mean, how good is this guy? He and Tulo are one of the best double play duos in baseball and, combined with outstanding defense from Nolan Arenado and solid play from Justin Morneau, constitute one of the best infields in all of baseball.

LeMahieu's offensive struggles are well known, but here's a look at his numbers for easy viewing.

Season PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA
2014 538 59 132 15 5 5 42 10 10 6.1% 18% .267 .315 .348 .292
2015 (Steamer Projections) 531 52 137 22 4 5 48 14 9 5.6% 16.1% .279 .321 .371 .305
2015 (ZiPS Projections) 573 55 151 23 6 5 48 14 9 5.2% 15.7% .284 .323 .379 .302

Although the Rockies don't get much offensive production from LeMahieu at second, they don't really need to given their lineup. When healthy, LeMahieu is likely buried in the lineup hitting seventh or eighth behind sluggers like Tulowitzki, Morneau, Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez and Corey Dickerson. Add Charlie Blackmon and whoever happens to be behind the plate to that list and you get a lineup that's capable of putting up huge numbers, as it has often done in the past. As scoring is one of the Rockies' least concerns, it sort of mitigates LeMahieu's struggles at the plate. It'd be nice to see some development, of course, and based on Steamer and ZiPS projections for 2015 it seems some progress is anticipated.

Finally, LeMahieu deserves a standing ovation for simply playing in 149 games for the Rockies in a season that saw countless players miss time. His ability to stay on the field and provide the Rockies some consistency at a position at which they've really never had it makes up for his hitting woes.

MLB-quality depth

Former St. Louis Cardinal Daniel Descalso will be the Rockies' utility infielder for the 2015 season. His ability to play third, shortstop, second, and even a bit of first makes him a versatile addition, though he's not going to impress on any front. A career line of .243/.313/.341 leaves much to be desired, as do his defensive numbers. Regardless, Descalso will be a decent option to fill in at second and can be counted on to be OK doing so.

Charlie Culberson is another option for the Rockies. Like Descalso, Culberson is versatile enough to play just anywhere, but that's where the positives stop. He's a dreadful hitter and a below-average fielder who's prone to mistakes. He lays claim to an almost unbelievably low wRC+ of 33 in 2014, as well as negative defensive numbers pretty much across the board. Now, this isn't meant to be a bash Culberson bit, even though his performances leave much to be desired. For a team that struggles with injury as much as the Rockies, a guy like Culberson who can play a number of positions is a valuable asset to have as backup. Furthermore, there's some reason to believe there's room for improvement. While he hit only .195/.253/.290 in 233 PAs during a 95-game stint with the club, his 2013 numbers in Triple-A were drastically different: .310/.338/.524 with at wRC+ of 122 through 419 PA, knocking home 64 runs and going yard 14 times. For what it's worth, he'll also be turning 26 in early April. It's not too late for him to figure out hitting at the highest level, especially when he's played less than a season's worth of games -- just 148 across three years -- in his big league career.

Finally, there's another pair of possibilities in Cristhian Adames and Rafael Ynoa. While I'm not sure where they'll start the season, both will likely see a decent amount of time when the inevitable injury bug strikes. Adames is regarded as a typical all-glove, no-bat guy. Scouts love his ability in the field, and he represents a solid defensive backup should he be needed at either second or short. Although he projects as a below-average hitter, he did hit in Triple-A last year, finishing with a wRC+ of 122. He's never going to be a power guy, but he could end up being a very useful utility player who isn't a complete liability at the plate and has a tremendous glove. His glove is MLB-ready and his ability to make decent contact could see him get more time in the Show than some people think.

Ynoa hit .343/.380/.463 in 71 PAs spanning 19 games with the Rockies. Through 233 innings with the club, Ynoa showed that he can be a decent option in the field, as his versatility allows him to play third, short, and second. He hit well in a limited sample, and I think he'll see more games than his Steamer projection of 12.

On the farm

The Rockies top prospect at the position is Forrest Wall, who was taken 35th overall in the 2014 draft. Wall was largely regarded as one of the best high school hitters available in the draft. Although second baseman may typically go later in the draft, Wall justifies the high pick with a hit tool that projects as something potentially special. At rookie-level Grand Junction, Wall raked to the tune of a .318/.416/.490 line while posting a wRC+ of 136 against guys who were nearly three years older. His draft stock took a hit due to an arm injury that limited him to second base, but there are reports that his injury was overstated and that he could gain the arm strength to move elsewhere, if needed. In addition to his fantastic ability to make good, hard contact, Wall could develop above average power, which would be a huge asset to a team that's received little in the way of offensive production from second base in the past. Add his bat to plus speed and good range in the field and you have a guy who could become a stud for the Rockies. He's at least a couple years out, but Forrest Wall looks like he could be the real deal.

Another Rockies prospect working his way through the minors is Trevor Story. He once projected as a five-tool player at shortstop, but his lackluster pitch recognition has some scouts profiling him as no more than a utility player. Story, however, has a good glove at a premium position and can play at second in addition to shortstop. He needs work on pitch recognition, as his 34 percent strikeout rate is discouraging, but Story still profiles as a defensively sound player with a potentially solid bat.

Emergency contacts

Although Jed Lowrie just signed with the Astros, he could be available for trade if they call up Carlos Correa to the majors to play shortstop -- an unlikely scenario, but we've seen crazier. Similarly, Kelly Johnson has signed a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training with the Braves, but could be had on the cheap. Stephen Drew of the Yankees is another potential candidate for a trade, especially if either Jose Pirela or Robert Refsnyder make their case to play at second.